Just for looks?



What we took for a centerpiece at a recent al fresco lunch* turned out to be an appetizer—baby carrots, tiny radishes, and micro-greens planted in an edible “dirt” made out of dried malt and chocolate. It was granular and only slightly sweet, not at all like the crushed cookie dirt used for kids’ parties. It was haute cuisine dirt. I ate some of it; the taste was pleasant, and a good contrast to the sharp immature vegetables.  

Edible dirt makes me think of edible flowers. While I enjoyed the surprise of the edible planter, I don’t know if I’d go out of my way to create and serve my own fake dirt. I feel almost the same about flowers. I’ve eaten quite a number and I think as a whole they work much better as ornamental plants than as salad or stir-fry components. Violets might be my favorite; they’re at least delicate and not overly chewy like marigolds and daylily buds. Texture is the issue I have with most edible flowers. Most of them feel like you’re eating under-ripe green beans or something like that.  Crunchy without being crisp somehow. And there is rarely a discernible taste to compensate.

Of course, deep frying would likely make any of them yummy, but that doesn’t count. I can’t think of any edible flower that I don’t enjoy much more in an ornamental arrangement than I do as an ingredient. But I bet there are plenty of flower cuisine defenders out there, right?

*Here's a description of the entire lunch.

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Elizabeth Licata

Elizabeth Licata has been a regular writer for  Garden Rant since 2007, after contributing a guest rant about the overuse of American flags in front gardens. She lives and gardens in Buffalo, N.Y., which, far from the frozen wasteland many assume it to be, is a lush paradise of gardens, historic architecture, galleries, museums, theaters, and fun. As editor of Buffalo Spree magazine,  Licata helps keep Western New Yorkers apprised about what is happening in their region. She is also a freelance writer and art curator, who’s been published in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, ArtNews, Art in America, the Village Voice, and many other publications. She does regular radio segments for the local NPR affiliate, WBFO.

Licata is involved with Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest free garden tour in the US and possibly the world, and has written the text for a book about Garden Walk. She has also written and edited several art-related books. Contact Elizabeth: ealicata at yahoo.com


  1. “deep frying doesn’t count” – what? since when?

    Outside of nasturtiums and violets, fried-stuffed squash/pumpkin flowers are the only ones I’ve found worth the trouble.

  2. I always feel the need to look over the flowers put in my salad – once there was one the looked suspiciously like a larkspur. And on the theme of things in salads, why the pea vines? Nasty things that catch in my teeth and have been on some lists as poisonous.

  3. Flowers as garnishes don’t interest me at all–I agree that they are mostly flavorless decorations that I would enjoy more as table decoration. But years ago I made some unforgettably delicious and beautiful rose petal jam. It took a lot of rose petals, and since I only used ones that weren’t sprayed, it was hard to find that many. Other than that, it comes to mind that broccoli and cauliflower are flowerbuds, and very tasty too.

  4. Interesting! Very haute cuisine…

    I grow nasturtiums, and in my yard they’ve got quite a burn, since I water irregularly at best, but I’ve honestly never found much of anything I wanted to put them in. I grow them mostly because they’re glorious looking.

    Now, I just recently heard of anise hyssop flowers being cut up into salads, which I found interesting–they’re a bigger flower and if they taste anise-y, might be interesting, although I have no idea what the texture would be like.

  5. I like nasturtiums. They’re just the tiniest bit peppery. Mostly, though, I haven’t experimented with them. It’s on the low-priority must-do list. 🙂

  6. I like to eat selected flowers while I’m working in the garden: few borage flowers here, some rosemary flowers there, a nasturtium or two, a handful of violas.

    But I’ve brought a selection of edible flowers to a potluck and one person remembered me 5-6 years later because of that!

    It’s also fun to sprinkle a few flowers on a salad at the last minute — more to feed the eye. Most of them wilt quickly.

    When I was giving a cousin a tour of my garden and offered her a nasturtium, she said, “you first.”

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